Wednesday, October 13, 2021

We find, across a range of transgressions, that people frequently see victims of wrongdoing as more moral than nonvictims who have behaved identically

Virtuous victims. Jillian J Jordan, Maryam Kouchaki. Science Advances, Oct 13 2021. Vol 7, Issue 42. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abg5902

Abstract: How do people perceive the moral character of victims? We find, across a range of transgressions, that people frequently see victims of wrongdoing as more moral than nonvictims who have behaved identically. Across 17 experiments (total n = 9676), we document this Virtuous Victim effect and explore the mechanisms underlying it. We also find support for the Justice Restoration Hypothesis, which proposes that people see victims as moral because this perception serves to motivate punishment of perpetrators and helping of victims, and people frequently face incentives to enact or encourage these “justice-restorative” actions. Our results validate predictions of this hypothesis and suggest that the Virtuous Victim effect does not merely reflect (i) that victims look good in contrast to perpetrators, (ii) that people are generally inclined to positively evaluate those who have suffered, or (iii) that people hold a genuine belief that victims tend to be people who behave morally.

Check also Ok, E., Qian, Y., Strejcek, B., & Aquino, K. (2020). Signaling virtuous victimhood as indicators of Dark Triad personalities. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Jul 2020.


Across 17 experiments (total n = 9676), we have documented and explored the Virtuous Victim effect. We find that victims are frequently seen as more virtuous than nonvictims—not because of their own behavior, but because others have mistreated them. We observe this effect across a range of moral transgressions and find evidence that it is not moderated by the victim’s (white versus black) race or gender. Humans ubiquitously—and perhaps increasingly (12)—encounter narratives about immoral acts and their victims. By demonstrating that these narratives have the power to confer moral status, our results shed new light on the ways that victims are perceived by society.
We have also explored the boundaries of the Virtuous Victim effect and illuminated the mechanisms that underlie it. For example, we find that the Virtuous Victim effect may be especially likely to flow from victim narratives that describe a transgression’s perpetrator and are presented by a third-person narrator (or perhaps, more generally, a narrator who is unlikely to be doubted). We also find that the effect is specific to victims of immorality (i.e., it does not extend to accident victims) and to moral virtue (i.e., it does not extend equally to positive but nonmoral traits). Furthermore, the effect shapes perceptions of moral character but not predictions about moral behavior.
We have also evaluated several potential explanations for the Virtuous Victim effect. Ultimately, our results provide evidence for the Justice Restoration Hypothesis, which proposes that people see victims as virtuous because this perception serves to motivate punishment of perpetrators and helping of victims, and people frequently face incentives to enact or encourage these justice-restorative actions. We find empirical support for the assumption that seeing victims as virtuous motivates justice-restorative action. We also find, critically, that introducing disincentives for justice-restorative action causes the Virtuous Victim effect to disappear. Moreover, our results provide direct evidence that the Virtuous Victim effect does not merely reflect (i) that victims look good in contrast to perpetrators, (ii) that people are generally inclined to positively evaluate those who have suffered, or (iii) that people hold a genuine belief that victims tend to behave morally.
By supporting the Justice Restoration Hypothesis, our work advances our understanding of how people evaluate the moral character of others. Previous research has established that moral character evaluations are shaped by the direct personal attributes of evaluated individuals, such as their moral or immoral behaviors (1215), social group affiliations (1620), or physical attractiveness (2122). Our results suggest that, because people frequently face incentives to respond to wrongdoing with justice-restorative action, moral character evaluations can also be influenced by whether an individual was the recipient of immoral treatment. In this way, our results contribute to a growing body of evidence from psychology that moral judgements can be colored by self-interested incentives (435254).
By proposing a link between perceptions of victim virtue and justice-restorative action, the Justice Restoration Hypothesis also aligns with theories of “indirect reciprocity.” Such theories posit that people track the reputation status of individuals in their community, and the normative value of a particular action (e.g., helping or stealing from somebody) can depend on the recipient’s reputation standing (5758). For example, in some cultures, stealing from somebody in good reputational standing is considered a norm violation, but stealing from somebody in bad reputational standing (e.g., somebody who himself is a thief) is not (59). According to this framework, a harmful act is more likely to be viewed by society as a transgression that merits justice-restorative action if the victim is morally virtuous. Thus, it stands to reason that seeing a victim as virtuous would boost motivation for justice-restorative action and that, when we face incentives to enact or encourage justice-restorative action, we would therefore benefit from elevating the victim’s character.
An interesting question for future research is whether incentives for justice-restorative action influence our perceptions of victims in other ways. We find that the Virtuous Victim effect does not extend equally to certain positive nonmoral traits (e.g., intelligence and athleticism). Providing a potential explanation for this pattern, we find some suggestive evidence that describing victims as competent may be less effective at motivating justice-restorative action than describing victims as moral. However, insofar as other traits beyond morality (e.g., helplessness or innocence) are particularly effective at motivating justice-restorative action, we might expect people to elevate victims on those traits.
This proposal may also relate to evidence that people typecast moral patients (i.e., the recipients of moral action), including victims, as less agentic and more passive (79). This phenomenon is distinct from the Virtuous Victim effect (being passive is not the same thing as being moral) and is unlikely to account for our results. If the Virtuous Victim effect simply reflected that victims are seen as passive patients who are incapable of wrongdoing, we would have expected the effect to extend to predicted immoral behavior, but subjects did not rate victims as any less likely to commit immoral acts (e.g., spreading mean gossip). However, future research should investigate whether there may be a psychological link between seeing victims as moral and as passive, insofar as both perceptions could plausibly motivate justice-restorative action.
Another open question is whether the Virtuous Victim effect may ever extend to victims of accidental misfortune. In our experiments, subjects did not see accident victims as more morally virtuous than neutral targets. When viewed through the lens of the Justice Restoration Hypothesis, this pattern makes sense: When accidents occur, there are no perpetrators (and thus no incentives for punishment). In addition, while accidents do create victims who may need help, our subjects did not perceive strong incentives to help them. Notably, our subjects did not expect helping accident victims to look any better than helping neutral targets. However, the accident victims in our experiments suffered relatively minor consequences (the loss of an iPad). When more serious accidents occur (e.g., natural disasters in poor countries), people might plausibly perceive stronger reputational incentives to help, in which case we would expect people to elevate the character of accident victims. Nevertheless, our theory and results also suggest that, holding constant the harm suffered, moral transgressions will create stronger incentives for justice-restorative action than accidents, and victims of immorality will therefore reliably be seen as more virtuous than accident victims.
Future research should also investigate how our results relate to victim blaming. There is ample evidence that people sometimes blame victims for causing their own victimization (36). This observation is not incompatible with our findings: One could conceivably see a victim as morally good and as having contributed, causally, to their victimization. However, moral evaluations of victims may nonetheless correlate interestingly with attributions of causal blame. For example, in some contexts, people face disincentives for justice-restorative action (and thus face pressure not to punish perpetrators and help victims, but rather to excuse wrongdoing and dismiss victims). Our theorizing predicts that in these contexts, people are unlikely to morally elevate victims (and may even derogate their moral character). Indeed, in the disincentives condition of experiment 11a, it was relatively easy to evoke such a context—and consequently eliminate the Virtuous Victim effect—by encouraging subjects to imagine some hypothetical drawbacks of justice-restorative action. Moreover, it seems plausible that in contexts where people perceive disincentives for justice-restorative action, they may also be more likely to attribute causal blame to victims. Future research should test this hypothesis, which is broadly consistent with evidence that motivation (60) and ideology (5) can influence empathy for victims.
Relatedly, it is interesting to consider why our sexual aggression vignette did not produce a significant Virtuous Victim effect, while our rape vignette produced a strong effect. In the victim condition of our sexual aggression vignette, the target initially participated in a consensual sexual encounter with the perpetrator (who then continued making advances after she asked him to stop). The vignette was also vague: The nature of the continued advances was unclear, and it was thus unclear whether a sexual assault occurred. In contrast, in the victim condition of our rape vignette, the target did not consent to any kind of a sexual encounter, and the vignette described an unambiguous assault. We thus speculate that subjects may have perceived the rape vignette as describing a context that would create greater social consensus that a moral transgression occurred, giving rise to stronger incentives for justice-restorative action and thus a stronger Virtuous Victim effect. Future research should directly test this proposal and more generally investigate when victims of sexual coercion are judged to be morally virtuous.
It is also interesting that, in our experiments, the Virtuous Victim effect was not significantly moderated by target gender or (white versus black) race and extended to female and black victims. When viewed through the lens of the Justice Restoration Hypothesis, these findings suggest that subjects in our experiments perceived incentives to help victims and punish the perpetrators who wronged them, including when the victims in question were female and/or black. However, this perception may not always hold, at least for all subsets of the population. Furthermore, in contexts where people do not perceive incentives to engage in justice-restorative action on behalf of female and/or black victims (or victims from other historically or currently marginalized groups), our theoretical framework suggests that the Virtuous Victim effect may not extend to members of these groups. For example, individuals who perceive incentives to excuse (rather than punish) police violence against black Americans may fail to elevate (and, as described above, perhaps even derogate) the character of such victims. Further research should investigate this important possibility.
Another open question is whether the Virtuous Victim effect occurs across cultures, including in populations that are not “WEIRD” (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) (61). As just articulated, our theorizing predicts that the generalizability of the Virtuous Victim effect across cultures is likely to depend on the universality of incentives for punishing perpetrators and helping victims. For example, in cultures and contexts where victims are seen as contaminated (5) and helping them is not socially rewarded, we predict that the Virtuous Victim effect may disappear (or even reverse).
Further research should also investigate the Virtuous Victim effect outside of the laboratory. A limitation of our work is that we relied on hypothetical vignettes, most of which were presented in third person by a presumptively objective narrator. Thus, future work should explore perceptions of real-world victims, both in contexts where victim narratives are presented by third parties (e.g., news coverage of or gossip about immoral acts and their victims) and victims themselves.
Relatedly, future work should attempt to shed further light on our finding that the Virtuous Victim effect can, but does not always, extend from third- to first-person narratives. We have speculated that this finding may reflect that narrator credibility is crucial for the Virtuous Victim effect. Moreover, while people may be especially likely to question first-person narrators, perceived credibility might also play an important role in shaping evaluations of third-person victim narratives, especially in contexts where narrators seem less objective than they did in our vignettes.
Future research should also investigate the broader societal implications of the Virtuous Victim effect. How does the perception that victims are morally virtuous shape the treatment of victims by society (both in daily life and in domains like policy and law) and the roles that victim narratives play in social debates? Furthermore, what are the implications of the Virtuous Victim effect for the behavior and psychology of victims? For example, when victims are bestowed with moral status, what are the downstream consequences for their moral self-concepts and behavior (6263)? In addition, are people aware that being seen as a victim can make them appear moral? Recent research has documented a correlation between the tendency to signal one’s victim status and the tendency to signal one’s moral character (56), and our work shows that victim status can itself serve to boost an individual’s perceived moral character. These results raise the question of whether people are motivated to share their victimization to appear virtuous. On the other hand, however, do victims anticipate the pitfalls that may come with personally sharing their first-person narratives? Future work should investigate how these considerations shape the ways that victims choose to come forward with their stories.
In conclusion, we have shown that people frequently see victims of wrongdoing as morally good and provided evidence that this Virtuous Victim effect flows from incentives for justice-restorative action. This work has important implications for the role of victim narratives in society and raises many interesting directions for future research.

Approx. half of the people in the general population who were perverts (nowadays, of paraphilic interests) acted upon those

Concordance and Discordance between Paraphilic Interests and Behaviors: A Follow-Up Study. Christian C. Joyal, Julie Carpentier. The Journal of Sex Research, Oct 12 2021.

Abstract: Although paraphilic interests represent significant risk factors for recidivism among sexual offenders, little is known about the magnitude of concordance between paraphilic interests and behaviors in the general population. The goal of this follow-up study was to conduct secondary analyses based on a sample of 1040 adults (475 men; 565 women) recruited in the general population. Levels of associations and active concordance (having both interest and experience), passive concordance (having neither interest nor experience), active discordance (having experience without interest) and passive discordance (having interest without experience) between paraphilic interest and corresponding behavior were assessed. Concordance and discordance indexes were also computed, as well as regressions and moderation analyses. As expected, paraphilic interests predicted corresponding behaviors, although the mean active concordance rate was only approximately 50%. Concordance rates varied with gender and the criminal nature (legal vs. illegal) of paraphilia. Paraphilic interests in adults from the general population may not have the same predictive value as that observed in medico-legal contexts. The possible role of other moderators in the concordance between paraphilic interest and behavior in non-clinical populations should be assessed. These findings have implications for sexual abuse prevention programs aiming at individuals in the community.


The main goal of this study was to evaluate the magnitude of association, concordance and discordance between interests for, and experience with, paraphilic behaviors in a sample of participants recruited among the general population. In line with previous studies (Bártová et al., 2021; Seto et al., 2021), correlations between the level of paraphilic interests (including none) and the frequency of corresponding behaviors (including none) were all positive and highly significant. When only participants with interest were considered, most of these associations decreased, indicating that the no-interest/no-behavior pairing explained in part these links. Still, all associations remained significant, although variation between them varied considerably (from a low of .197 for voyeurism to a high of .650 for sexual sadism). These results suggest that the link between interest and behavior fluctuates significantly across types of paraphilia. For instance, the three strongest associations between interest and behavior (all above .400) were found for sexual sadism, exhibitionism, and sexual masochism. It is worth noting that Seto et al. (2021) reported higher correlations between interest and behavior for masochism (.664) and sadism (.665) compared with other paraphilias. In addition, two rates in the present study increased when only interested participants were considered (sexual sadism and exhibitionism), indicating that for some paraphilias, associations between levels of interest and frequencies of behavior are in fact higher when absence of interest is eliminated from the equation. In these cases, the presence of interest may have a better predictive value for the appearance of the corresponding behavior.

Regression analyses also confirmed that having the desire to engage in a paraphilic behavior was significantly associated with acting on that behavior (see also Seto et al., 2021). Still, gender also represented a significant factor for the realization of some (but not all) paraphilic behaviors. As expected, fetishistic, voyeuristic, and exhibitionistic behaviors were associated with being a man and masochistic behaviors were (almost significantly) associated with being a woman. Seto et al. (2021) also found that four paraphilic behaviors were associated with gender: eroticized gender (men), frotteurism (men), zoophilia (men), and masochism (women). Given that the present study was not based on the same instrument and the same paraphilias, results are difficult to compare with those of Seto et al. (2021). Still, it is worth noting that in both studies, sexual masochism was associated with being a woman.

As for the more specific measure of correspondence between paraphilic interests and behaviors, the active concordance index, it was moderate on average (approximately .50), suggesting that about one person out of two with such interest also reported (or not) the corresponding behavior. Therefore, the presence of a paraphilic interest (or even a desire, as in this study) among people of the general population is only partially indicative of their experience with the corresponding behavior, perhaps less than what is usually reported in forensic contexts (e.g., Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005; Mann et al., 2010). Concordance rates also vary significantly across paraphilias. A first source of variation was the criminal status (legal vs. illegal) of the paraphilia. Although the concordance rates suggest that the sole criminal nature of a paraphilia is not sufficient to explain the odds of acting out (e.g., voyeurism, frotteurism), legal paraphilic interests were significantly more likely to be associated with corresponding behaviors than interests for illegal sexual behaviors. A similar result was reported by Seto et al. (2021).

A second source of concordance variation was gender (moderation variable), although it was significant for only three paraphilias (fetishism, transvestism, and exhibitionism, all related with being a man). These results suggest that even if odds of engaging in paraphilic behaviors are generally higher in men, the link between having a paraphilic interest and realizing it is not necessarily weaker in women. Seto et al. (2021), for instance, found that pedohebephilic interests were significantly associated with pedohebephilic behaviors in both men and women (if heterosexual) among the general population. In the present study, women who had interests in sexual masochism, sexual sadism, frotteurism, or voyeurism were as likely as men to have experienced it.

The active discordance index also generated interesting results. For instance, correlations between interest and behavior were higher for exhibitionism after participants with no interest and no experience with exhibitionism were removed from the equation. These results suggest that having interest in exhibitionism is significantly associated with behavioral exhibitionism. However, the active discordant index indicated that exhibitionism behaviors were more likely to be reported by participants who engaged in these behaviors without interest in doing so (as indicated by indexes higher than 1). Therefore, among the general population, having interest for a paraphilia such as exhibitionism seems to be significantly associated with the corresponding behavior, whereas the opposite is not true, i.e., exhibitionism is not necessarily indicative of a corresponding interest. In opposition, indexes of active discordance were especially low (.15 or less) for masochism (men and women) and fetishism (men). These results suggest that most people from the general population who engage in these behaviors also have the desire to do so.

Future investigations should assess the presence and importance of other possible moderating factors underlying the variation of concordance between paraphilic (or any) sexual interest and behavior. For instance, Bondü and Birke (2021) recently reported a significant association between coercive sexual fantasies and behavioral sexual sadism (consenting and non-consenting) in young adults (mainly university students), although less than 25% of the variance was explained by the sole presence of these fantasies. Importantly, inclusion of other factors such as personality traits, attitudes, and general aggressiveness increased that percentage to nearly 50% (Bondü & Birke, 2021). At the individual level, variables such as sexual drive, sexual orientation, behavioral impulsivity, psychopathic traits, substance abuse, intelligence and educational levels deserve further attention (e.g., Bondü & Birke, 2021; Seto et al., 2021; Williams et al., 2009). At the sexual interest level, low diversity of interests (e.g., having few but highly specific fantasies) paired with high intensity (e.g., very sexually arousing and recurrent), a non-volitional type of appearance (obsessional), a long history of emergence (e.g., early adolescence) and/or high frequency represent good possible moderating factors in the odds of acting on them. Because the present study was not designed to assess concordance between interest and behaviors, these intermediate variables were not assessed.

Finally, different definitions and measures of sexual interest might explain in part variation in rates of concordance across studies. Fantasies about (Bártová et al., 2021), arousal associated with (Bártová et al., 2021; Seto et al., 2021), and desire to accomplish (current findings) a given sexual behavior can all be defined as sexual interest, although their proximity with behaviors might differ. Given that sexual fantasies are not necessarily associated with an actual desire to realize them (Joyal & Carpentier, 2017), concordance between behaviors and desire might be somewhat higher than that with fantasies. The definition of behavior is also important, such as including (or not) exclusive pornography use, which influences reported rates (see Dombert et al., 2016 for instance). Rates of pedophilic interests and experience (involving children aged 13 or less) were particularly low in this study (0.6% and 0,4%, respectively, compared with 4.1% and 3.2% among German men; Dombert et al., 2016), perhaps due to fear of being reported in Canada and/or the exclusion of behaviors limited to pornography consumption. In contrast, rates of interest and experience (Joyal & Carpentier, 2017) and concordance (this study) for frotteurism were relatively high in this sample. This reflects, at least in part, an important difference between our definition of frotteurism (“Touching or rubbing yourself against a stranger”) and that of other studies (“Touching or rubbing against a nonconsenting person,” e.g., Seto et al., 2021). Therefore, measures of paraphilic interests and behaviors should be validated for future studies, not only for convergent validity and reliability (Seto et al., 2021), but also for face and content validity.

Overall, there are growing data available concerning concordance and discordance between paraphilic interests and paraphilic behaviors among non-clinical, non-forensic samples of participants. Although there remain gaps in the literature, these investigations will help in developing risk assessment instruments for the general population, crucial for the emerging development of prevention programs against sexual abuse aiming at the community.

Strategic initiatives by individuals or groups to disguise or conceal themselves represents one possible initial pathway to the cultural evolution of clothing

Disguises and the Origins of Clothing. William Buckner. Human Nature, Oct 13 2021.

Abstract: Thermoregulation is often thought to be a key motivating factor behind the origins of clothing. Less attention has been given, however, to the production and use of clothing across traditional societies in contexts outside of thermoregulatory needs. Here I investigate the use of disguises, modesty coverings, and body armor among the 10 hunter-gatherer societies in the Probability Sample Files (PSF) within the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) World Cultures database, with a particular focus on disguise cases and how they compare with strategies of deception across other taxa. The employment of disguises—defined as altering one’s appearance for purposes of deceiving conspecifics or other animals—is noted for eight of the 10 societies, with their use occurring in contexts of hunting, religious or cult practices, and war or interpersonal violence. Most hunter-gatherer disguises demonstrated clear similarities to cases of visual deception found in other species, with the majority of examples fitting categories of animal mimicry, masquerading as plants, disruptive coloration (camouflage), or background matching (camouflage), while disguises unique to humans involved the impersonation of culture-specific “spirit-beings.” Clothing for modesty purposes (nine societies) and body armor (six societies) are also noted. I propose that strategic initiatives by individuals or groups to disguise or conceal themselves represents one possible initial pathway to the cultural evolution of clothing. There are likely multiple potential (nonexclusive) social and functional pathways to the emergence of clothing outside of thermoregulatory needs.

Vocalizations in intercourse by sexually unrestricted females may ultimately secure higher paternal investment and increase the confidence of the paternity of current sexual partner

Factors Influencing Sexual Vocalization in Human Females. Pavol Prokop. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Oct 12 2021.

Abstract: Human females use numerous signals to attract male attention which can be ultimately motivated by enhanced paternal investment in the offspring. Sexual vocalization is a form of female sexual signaling. The majority of hypotheses attempting to explain the functional significance of vocalizations have been applied on non-human primates, while research on human females is scarce. This study investigated factors underlying sexual vocalization with a sample of 403 heterosexual Slovak females. Sexual vocalization was most frequent during penetration itself compared with other forms of sexual activities, which supports its signaling function. The most frequently reported sexual vocalizations were moaning/groaning, followed by screams and instructional commands, squeals, and words. Both the frequency and intensity of sexual vocalizations were significantly and positively associated with sexual arousal during the last sexual vaginal intercourse and sociosexuality. About 38% of females reported that they pretended vocalization and, in turn, pretended vocalization was exclusively associated with pretending orgasm. No direct evidence was found for any associations between self-reported frequency and intensity of sexual vocalization and partner satisfaction/physical attractiveness/ambition/dominance, self-perceived attractiveness, or occurrence of orgasm. The frequency (but not intensity) of sexual vocalization was positively influenced by the conception risk. On the proximate level, it seems that sexually less restricted females may use sexual vocalization to increase their sexual attractiveness to their current partner by means of boosting their partner’s self-esteem. Enhanced vocalization by sexually unrestricted females may ultimately secure higher paternal investment and increase the confidence of the paternity of current sexual partner.

33.8% of all individuals reported dissatisfaction with the appearance of their genitalia, with 13.7% of females and 11.3% of males being positive towards undergoing cosmetic genital surgery

Hustad, Ingvill B., Karin Malmqvist, Ekaterina Ivanova, Christian Ruck, and Jesper Enander. 2021. “Does Size Matter? Genital Self-image, Genital Size, Pornography Use and Openness Towards Cosmetic Genital Surgery in 3662 Swedish Men and Women.” PsyArXiv. October 12. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: This cross-sectional study investigated the distribution and characteristics of genial self-image in a large sample of males and females, and whether factors such as actual genial size (length of penis or protrusion of labia minora), consumption of sexually explicit material (SEM) or avoidance and safety seeking behaviors were associated with genital self-image. Overall, 3.6% of females and 5.5% of males suffered from a severely low genital self-image and 33.8% of all individuals reported dissatisfaction with the appearance of their genitalia, with 13.7% of females and 11.3% of males being positive towards undergoing cosmetic genital surgery. Mean protrusion of labia minora and stretched flaccid penis length in the population was estimated to 0.76 cm (95% CI 0.63-0.89 cm) and 12.5 cm (95% CI 12.33-12.76 cm), respectively. A better genital self-image was associated with having a larger penis or less protruding labia minora, but not associated with the degree of SEM consumption, although 93.6% of males and 57.5% of females had consumed SEM in the past three months. Avoidance and safety seeking behaviors were strongly correlated with a negative genital self-image. Considering this relationship, more research is warranted in the development of potential psychological interventions in order to alleviate genital dissatisfaction in individuals.